Stakeholders Back Port Economic Regulatory Agency Bill, Demand Speedy Passage

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Stakeholders in the maritime industry have thrown their weight behind the Nigeria Shipping and Port Economic Regulatory Agency Bill 2024 and called for its speedy passage.

The stakeholders were of the opinion that there was need for a regulatory body in the industry, saying it was long overdue.

The stakeholders made their views known yesterday, in Abuja, at the public hearing on the Repeal of the Nigeria Shippers’ Council Act (CAP. N133, LFN., 2004) and enact the Nigeria Shipping and Port Economic Regulatory Agency Bill 2024 sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Hon. Abdulsamad Dansuki and others.

Making its contribution to the bill, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) noted that post concession era of the ports had stifled the growth of the industry.

Its representative, Kingsley Igwe, said establishments of the regulatory agency would help address economic strangulation and promotes fair competition.

He added that that agency would play a crucial role in regulating the activities of the port concessionaires, ensuring compliance with standards and fostering a conducive environment for economic goods and development within the sector.

Also, the former Executive Sectary of Shippers Council, Malam Abubakar Bello, said there was a regulatory vacuum. This, he argued was why the port reforms were not making contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He maintained that the bill was fundamental, essential and it would correct certain anomalies, adding that the proposed legislation would be a crowning glory in promoting efficiency and technology in ship operations.

The facilitator of Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Dr. Ikenna Nwosu, said the competitiveness of Nigeria in a borderless economy would be determined on how effective the port management of the country is.

He added that all the landlocked countries in West Africa have moved their cargoes from Nigeria to Benin Republic and Togo because the country’s ports are too expensive.

Earlier, the Speaker noted the that the bill seeks to ensure that the proposed agency establishes an economic regulatory framework for effective and efficient regulation of commercial and related activities in the shipping and port sector.

Abbas, added that the bill also aimed at creating an enabling environment for private sector participation in the provision and operation of regulated services in Nigeria amongst others.

His words: “It is worthy of note, that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has evolved significantly from its original role as a protector of shippers’ interests.

“It has now become the economic regulator of the entire Nigerian port system, a responsibility that extends beyond the Nigerian Ports Authority to include all stakeholders within the port ecosystem.

“This comprehensive oversight covers the regulation and control of tariffs, rates, charges, and other economic services associated with port operations.

“To effectively fulfil its expanded mandate as the Port Economic Regulator, it is imperative therefore that the necessary legislative bill is passed. This bill will formally empower the Council, providing it with the authority and tools required to oversee and manage the economic activities within Nigerian ports, ensuring efficiency, fairness, and competitiveness across the sector.”

Abbas, stressed that the amended bill encompasses critical provisions addressing several key areas essential for the effective functioning of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.

Giving the synopsis of the Bill, the Executive Secretary, Nigerians Shippers council, Pius Akutah, said the bill would be a catalyst that would reposition the Nigeria shipping and port sector.

He said the bill would create an enabling environment for private sector investment in the provision of regulated services in Nigeria and also promote fair trade practices that would ensure the protection of rights and balance of interests of providers and users of regulated services.

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